I tiptoe across the floor of my room, trying to force the sound of my footsteps into the plush white carpet. Swinging the door open carefully, so as not to hit the side of the crib, I glance down and see tufts of blonde hair peeking out from under fleece Mickey Mouse blankets. Gentle snores grumble through a snotty nose. Closing the door behind me, I chuckle at the thought that not many college seniors share their room with a toddler... especially when the child is not their own. I step into the hall and overhear Dad's playful call in the girls' room: “Alright! Who's ready for Chapter Time!” Giggling, the two girls jump into their beds and Mom pulls the blankets up around their chubby cheeks as Dad settles back with a picture book. Heading downstairs to work on homework, I smile as the ever-familiar deep hum of his voice follows me down.
Around the age of thirteen or fourteen, I found myself “maturing”—Chapter Time was losing its luster. I came to the decision that I was far too old to still have my Dad to read to me, so the night came that I ignored my dad's call to join. Sitting proudly alone in my room, I heard my father and brothers together, the stories continuing as they always would. Proud and sulking... as much as I wanted to grow up, I didn't want to be left out.
Not long after, Chapter Time slowly slipped out of the family routine.
As a fruit from being read to, I became an avid reader. I was taught an appreciation for the written word at a young age. A very young age. Competitive and stubborn by nature, I insisted that my mother teach me to read at three years old, only because she had begun teaching my 6-year-old brother. (Just as an aside: we also graduated with our Associate's at the same time. I never grew out of the competitiveness.) Later on, as homeschooled daughter of a writer, my education was severely lacking in the areas of math and science, but was rich in novels. I read every copy of Nancy Drew in our local library, and even tried to start my own Babysitter's Club named “Baby Blues,” which for some reason never took off. While my friends were starting to get in trouble for kissing boys and watching R-rated movies, I got in trouble for sneaking flashlights and reading until the wee hours of the morning. I had the capacity to read my mom's 450-page World War II novel, From Dust and Ashes, in one sitting, and always hungered for more. I knew the cover of every book on each of the five bookshelves in our house, and realized that the old saying is beyond wrong, because you CAN judge a book by its cover. Or, at least I did. If the cover didn't catch my eye—if I didn't feel a glimmer of excitement from holding the weight of it in my hands—I would stuff it right back on the shelf and never give it a second glance.
My whole family is undergoing an adjustment period right now. My parents recently acquired a 2-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl from the foster care system. Once you add them to my 18-year old brother, myself, and our already-adopted 2-year-old sister, the number of “kids” living at home now amounts to five. While ever-unorganized chaos reigns in my home, and I have discovered that doing homework has become a nearly-impossible task, I feel so blessed to know that the fountain of love pouring out of my parents is nowhere close to dry. More mouths to feed, more clothes to clean.